Wednesday, February 1, 2017

2017 Bathurst 12 Hour Preview

One week after the 55th running of the 24 Hours of Daytona, 9,459 miles away is the 15th Bathurst 12 Hour from the Mount Panorama Circuit. Fifty-five cars are entered for the famed Australian endurance race across six classes. The race is littered with sports cars finest partnering with the best from the Supercars series. This race also marks the first round of the 2017 Intercontinental GT Challenge.

Class A - GT3 Pro
Tekno Autosports defends its 2016 victory with two McLaren 650s GT3s. Álvaro Parente is the lone holdover from last year's winning team and the Portuguese driver will be joined in the #58 McLaren with defending Blancpain Endurance Series champions Rob Bell and Côme Ledogar. In the #59 McLaren will be Ben Barnicoat, Jonny Kane and defending Bathurst 1000 winner Will Davison. Davison's co-driver in his Bathurst 1000 victory was Jonathon Webb, who became the first driver to win the 12 Hour and 1000 in the same year as Webb was co-drivers with Parente and Shane Van Gisbergern. Webb is not entered in this year's race.

Van Gisbergen moves from McLaren to the #22 STM/HTP Motorsport Mercedes AMG GT3 with Craig Baird and Maro Engel. Baird won the 2007 race, the first running of the race after a 12-year hiatus. Van Gisbergen and Baird could become the ninth and tenth drivers to win multiple Bathurst 12 Hours.

Nissan won the 2015 Bathurst 12 Hour and finished second last year. Katsumasa Chiyo leads the #23 Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 with Alex Buncombe and Michael Caruso as his co-drivers while Florian Strauß takes lead of the #24 Nissan with co-drivers Todd Kelly and Jann Mardenborough. 

The lone Ferrari in the race is Maranello Motorsport's #88 Ferrari 488 GT3 for Toni Vilander and Red Bull Racing Australia teammates Craig Lowndes and Jamie Whincup. This team won the 2014 race with Lowndes as one of the drivers behind the wheel. This will be Whincup's 12 Hour debut as he looks to add a 12 Hour success to his résumé alongside his four Bathurst 1000 victories. 

Jamec Pem Racing fields two Audis as the manufacture looks for its first victory in the event since 2012. Christopher Mies won in 2011 and 2012 and he is one of five drivers to win the race in consecutive years. Christopher Haase and three-time Bathurst 1000 winner Garth Tander join Mies in the #74 Audi R8 LMS. Haase is coming off winning the final round of the 2016 Intercontinental GT Challenge at Sepang and one of his co-drivers from that race, Robin Frijns leads the #75 Audi with Markus Winkelhock and Frank Stippler. 

Laurens Vanthoor won the 2016 Intercontinental GT Challenge drivers' championship thanks to that victory at Sepang with Haase and Frijns but Vanthoor returns to Bathurst in the #911 Walkinshaw GT3 Porsche 911 GT3 R alongside Earl Bamber and Kevin Éstre. Porsche has never won the Bathurst 12 Hour. Bamber won last year in the Bathurst 12 Hour in Class B.

BMW has the most entries in Class A - GT3 Pro with BMW Team SRM responsible for two M6 GT3s. The #7 BMW features three drivers responsible for ten Bathurst 1000 victories and one Bathurst 12 Hour victory. Tony Longhurst won the 2009 Bathurst 12 Hour and he returns to the race with six-time Bathurst 1000 winner Mark Skaife and two-time 1000 winner Russell Ingall. Rounding out the #7 BMW will be DTM driver Timo Glock. In the team's #60 BMW will be four-time Bathurst 1000 winner Steve Richards and his co-driver in his 2015 victory Mark Winterbottom will join him along with two-time and defending DTM champion Marco Wittmann. Walkenhorst has entered the #99 BMW for Jörg Müller, Nico Menzel and Ricky Collard. 

Rounding out Class A - GT3 Pro is the two Bentley Team M-Sport entries. The #8 Bentley features Steven Kane, Guy Smith and the recently signed Oliver Jarvis. Andy Soucek, Maxime Soulet and Vincent Abril are responsible for the #17 Bentley. 

Class A - GT3 Pro/AM
Six entries occupy the Pro/AM class. The most recent addition to the class was the #83 HTP Motorsport Mercedes with usual Aston Martin drivers Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda with 2013 Bathurst 12 Hour winner Bernd Schneider rounding out that lineup. The other Mercedes in the class is the #61 Hogs Mercedes driven by Mark Griffith, Dominic Storey and David Reynolds. 

Two Audis are in the Pro/AM category with the #3 Team ASR Pty Ltd Audi for Ash Samadi, Daniel Gaunt and Matt Halliday. Hallmarc returns with the #9 Audi for Marc Cini, Lee Holdsworth and Dean Fiore. Objective Racing has entered the #11 McLaren for Supercars regular Tim Slade, Supercars endurance specialist Warren Luff, Alex Davison and Tony Walls. Rounding out the class will by the #12 Competition Motorsports powered by Ice Break Porsche with defending World Endurance Drivers' Champion and 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Marc Lieb alongside Patrick Long, David Calvert-Jones and defending Porsche Carrera Cup Australia champion Matt Campbell. 

Class A - GT3 AM
Thirteen entries make up the AM category. Audi and Lamborghini each have entered a class-high three cars. 

Daniel Stuttard, James Bergmuller and Samuel Fillmore will drive the #2 DJS Racing Audi. Australian GT Championship regulars Nathan Antunes and Elliot Barbour are joined in the #5 GT Motorsport Pty Ltd Audi by Greg Taylor. Antunes and Taylor are defending Class A - GT3 AM winners. James Koundouris and Marcus Marshall will share the #44 Supabarn Audi with Theo Koundouris and Simon Evans. 

The #29 Trofeo Motorsport Lamborghini features former Formula One driver Ivan Capelli, Dean Canto, Jim Manolis and Ryan Millier. Lago Racing has entered the #32 Lamborghini for Roger Lago, Steve Owen and David Russell. Glenn Smith, Kevin Bell, Nicholas Chester and John De Veth will drive the #47 Kiwi Racing Lamborghini. 

Defending Australian GT Champion Klark Quinn will pilot the #37 Keltic Racing McLaren with Anthony Quinn, Grant Denyer and Andrew Waiter. This team has retired from the last two Bathurst 12 Hours after finishing third and fourth overall the two years prior to that. 

Wall Racing has entered two Nissan GT-Rs. Daniel Bilski, Adrian Flack and Christ Pither will be in the #38 Nissan with Brett Hodges, Erik Davis and Fred Poordad in the #66 Nissan. 

AMCA Motorsport has entered the #51 Porsche for Andrew McPherson, Neale Muston and Time Mils. Walkinshaw GT3 has entered a second Porsche with Liam Talbot, John Martin and Duvashen Padayachee in the #912 Porsche. 

The lone Aston Martin in Class A belongs to Miedecke Stone Motorsport with George Miedecke, Ashley Walsh and Tony Bates in the #35 Aston Martin. MARC Cars Australia has entered the #90 BMW with 2014 Bathurst 1000 winner Chaz Mostert joined by Max Twigg and Morgan Haber, who won last year in Class I.

Class B - GT3 (Cup Cars)
Five cars comprise the secondary class in the Bathurst 12 Hour.

Grove Motorsport defends its class victory with Stephen Grove returning in the #4 Porsche with Benjamin Baker and Alexandre Imperatori. Wall Racing has entered the #6 Porsche for Richard Gartner, Aaron Zerefos, Indiran Padayachee and Ric Shaw.

Peter Major, Jordan Love and Nicholas McBride will drive the #14 IKAD Racing Porsche. The #21 Steve Richards Motorsports Porsche will be driven Dean Grant, Dylan Okeeffe and Xaiver West. Rounding out the class will be the #50 Synep Racing Porsche for Adam Cranston, Josh Cranston, Aaron Steer and Jamie Winslow.

Class C - GT4 & Class D - Invitational
PROSpeed Performance has entered two Porsche Cayman PRO 4s in Class C. The #18 Porsche will be an all-American lineup with Charles Putman, Charles Espenlaub and Joe Foster. Andy Pilgrim will lead the #19 Porsche with Max Braams, Jörg Viebahn and Nicolaij Moller-Madsen.

The lone KTM X-Bow GT4 on the grid belongs to M Motorsport. Tomáš Enge leads the #48 KTM with Justin McMillan, Glen Wood and Reinhold Kofler as his co-drivers.

RA Motorsports - Ginetta has two entries with Mike Simpson, Peter Paddon and Tim Berryman in the #55 Ginetta and Zen Low, Shinyo Sano and Jake Parsons in the #69 Ginetta.

Of the nine Class D entries, six belong to MARC Cars Australia. Adam Seaton and Jake Camilleri return as defending class winners but will be split between the #92 Focus V8 and #93 Mazda 3 V8 respectively. Seaton's co-drivers will be Michael Benton and Hadrian Morrall. Jack Smith and Rob Thomson partner with Camilleri. Defending Australian Formula Ford champion Leanne Tander will drive the #94 Mazda 3 V8 with Nicholas Rowe, Gerard McLeod and Tim Leahey.

Darren Turner is the most notable driver in Class D and he will drive the #76 R-Motorsport Aston Martin Vantage GT8 with Florian Kamelger and Markus Lungstrass.

The Bathurst 12 Hour will begin at 1:45 p.m. ET on Saturday February 4th.